When I was single, my approach to feeding myself was as follows: realize there’s no food to eat in pantry/fridge, go to grocery, randomly grab stuff I felt like eating right then (and presumably til next grocery trip), buy that stuff, and cobble meals together from what I bought as the need arose. I’d go to the store two or three times a week, grabbing snacks, veggies, fruits, and grains (I was a vegetarian (borne of laziness) at that stage, occasionally choosing meat when out at restaurants but sticking to stuff like quinoa, cheese, yogurt and lentils for protein at home).
Back then, I didn’t often think to tally how much I was spending per month. I didn’t try to conceive and stick to a budget plan. I just bought, and hoped things would work out okay. Usually, things often did not work out okay, as my mother can attest, since she was the one (in my university days) who I needed to call for help with cash flow from time to time (another subject entirely). Sorry Mom!
I digress. The point here is that when I was single, there was little planning when it came to meals; only purchasing, and hoping that what I picked would feed me till I could make it to the grocery store next. The fly-by-seat-of-pants approach, if you will (I find myself wondering about origin of this expression; find one here). And to be honest, not much changed when I got married (though I did start to prepare and cook more meat-centered meals). In fact, I pretty much continued with this approach up until a month or so ago (after about 2 years of marriage and the birth of our son).
However, the seat of those flying pants has worn clear through. Gotta get some new ones. See, we’ve been on a pretty strict monthly budget for a while now, and after tallying up our spending, realized we weren’t really sticking to it. We weren’t wildly out of budget, but we were over-spending. Now it is obvious to me that part of the reason we were not able to stick to it is that we were not determining a meal plan before heading to the store. I was still using the spontaneous grab-and-go method (though I did think up meals for the week while shopping, or on my way to the store). We were sometimes running out of healthy options for meals about halfway through the week, and then I had a massive insight that isn’t really an insight at all, cause it is glaringly obvious: plan meals ahead of time, buy the stuff for those meals only (allowing room in the budget for stuff like milk and snacks), and you will not run out of food halfway through the week. Who knew?!
In the course of learning about meal planning, I have discovered an entire internet UNIVERSE devoted to the topic. It is amazing, in the truest sense: both bewildering and perplexing. There are oodles and oodles of
noodles blogs about what to eat and how to eat it and how to make it and where to buy it. People post entire meal plans online and take pictures of, like, everything they eat!!! It is weird and surreal and overwhelming and surprisingly helpful (when my head is not hurting from rifling through all the options). I do not picture myself joining the ranks of men and women posting every bite they take on the world wide web… but I have found a few blogs that have healthy recipes fit for toddlers (and moms and dads) and I plan to continue drawing ideas from those as I fumble along the path of planning.
Now that I have started to PLAN, I am learning that while planning takes time, ultimately, it saves time (and time is money, baby, though babies do not make money or time).
More on this topic another time. Until then: readers, do you have any meal-planning tips?